The American Revolution is known for its high stakes, bravery, and ultimately creating a powerful nation that will spearhead the world in a matter of two centuries. The swashbuckling romance sub-genre is one that fits this time-period perfectly. With its action packed set pieces to break the intimate scenes that drive the plot, this combination should have something for action and romance fans alike. Put the religious undertones of the revolution itself and a faith-based production company to make it, and it seems like a no-brainer. Well, “Beyond The Mask” manages to combine all those ingredients, but the result is not the perfect mix we hoped for.
Directed by Chad Burns, the film tells the story of an East India Company mercenary that decides it’s time to change after years of bringing death to India. When he reveals this to his boss, Charles Kemp (John Rhys Davies) he is betrayed and barely survives an attempt on this life. It is in here that the story starts, as he seeks to redeem his past mistakes with a new identity. On his way to redemption, he falls in love and comes to America where he plays an important role in the revolution. All this is well and good, if it wasn’t follow by a sea of technical contradictions. The film lacks any sense of subtlety. It has pacing problems with a repeated structure. It’s overstuffed with plot points that render the film stiff since it can’t handle them. For example, our main character William Reynolds’ (Andrew Cheney) love interest is actually his enemy’s niece. This leads him to escape the little village he hid in after the attempt in his life…the village, which by the way, was just a couple of miles away from where the assassination was supposed to happened. If you don’t want to be found, you don’t stop in the next village over. And while we talk about their time in Britain, how come nobody has an acceptable British accent? The people in America do not sound any different to those in Britain. That’s only two examples about what is wrong with this film.
Faith based films get a lot of bad criticism for their production values and lazy writing. This one has an impressive budget for this type of movie, but it definitely bit off more than it could chew. While some shots look amazing, most look like it was a made-for-TV movie circa 2002. The script itself is fun, but not in any way special. There’s no thrills, no suspense, no twist we don’t see coming. Everything is telegraphed, even the emotions. Not even John Rhys Davies’ overacting for a paycheck can save the dialogue. It’s a shame because the potential was there for a “Pirates Of the Caribbean” like movie that could have given Christian films a boost. Instead, we are treated to another inferior product that looks more like a The Asylum movie than one that is actually trying to be original.
I believe there is a place for religious films to exist; there is definitely an audience. But that audience and the producers must ask for a better product. The time spent in a film, the money that’s required to see a movie in the theaters, the stress that families have to endure to go watch it… all of that demands for improvement in the genre. This is a good step forward, but a very small one. The ambition is there, now all you need is the talent to pull it off.
Out of four stars:
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